Preparing food at home for retail sales will become legitimate and, perhaps, a bit easier with the implementation of Assembly Bill 1616, “The California Homemade Food Act.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation in September 2012 and it became effective on Jan. 1, 2013. The governor’s office stated, when he signed the bill, its purpose is to “help small and fledgling businesses produce and sell food made out of their homes under a more streamlined regulatory structure.”

The law authorizes California counties to write implementing regulations. In November, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors requested staff begin this task and a draft ordinance was presented at a Tuesday, Jan. 8, board meeting. According to Keith Jones, deputy director of the county’s Division of Environmental Services, a public hearing will be scheduled for the Tuesday, Jan. 29, board of supervisors’ session.

“The law tells counties to find a way to permit these businesses,” Jones said. But the planning department will be involved as well as Environmental Services, which regulates food preparation and service.

The act authorizes two types of food operations — Class A and Class B. Both types must register with Riverside County. Class A operations need to register with the county and complete a self-certification form. Class B operations will need a permit from the county, including an initial onsite inspection before the permit is issued.

Class A operations may engage only in direct sales of cottage food products from the cottage food operation, or from direct sales venues within their county. In other words, the consumer purchases the food product directly from the operator.

Locations are generally temporary, such as holiday bazaars or certified farmers’ markets or special events.

The county is proposing a $72.50 registration fee. Class A operations may be inspected if a consumer complaint is filed.

Class B cottage food operations may sell directly to the consumer or indirectly through a third-party retail food facility such as a restaurant or market. These operations are also subject to different inspection requirements.

The proposed annual Riverside County permit fee is $290.

Both types of operators are required to meet conditions such as a training course, which the state is developing. Another example of the requirements includes the prohibition of food preparation or handling in the home kitchen concurrent with any other domestic activities, such as family meal preparation, dishwashing, clothes washing or ironing, kitchen cleaning, or guest entertainment.

Home food products must have labels that comply with federal laws and clearly state “Made in a Home Kitchen.” Cottage food operations are not allowed to manufacture potentially hazardous foods, acidified foods, or low-acid canned food products that would support the growth of botulism if not properly prepared.

In 2013, the gross sales of a cottage food operation must be less than $35,000. This ceiling increases to $45,000 in 2014 and $50,000 in 2015.

Riverside County’s existing Ordinance 492 regulates all food facilities. The new ordinance will specifically regulate the cottage food industry.

What foods may a cottage food operator produce or prepare?

The new state law limits the types of foods that cottage food operators may prepare and sell. They are defined as “non-potentially hazardous.” Essentially, these are foods that do not require refrigeration to keep them safe from bacterial growth that could make people sick.

The California Department of Public Health will establish and maintain a list of approved cottage food categories on their website. The list included in the new law includes the following items:

  • Baked goods without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas
  • Candy, such as brittle and toffee
  • Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Dried pasta
  • Dry baking mixes
  • Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales
  • Granola, cereals, and trail mixes
  • Herb blends and dried mole paste
  • Honey and sweet sorghum syrup
  • Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations
  • Nut mixes and nut butters
  • Popcorn
  • Vinegar and mustard
  • Roasted coffee and dried tea
  • Waffle cones and pizzelles